A Look at All Black Settlements

A Look at All Black Settlements

Junious Ricardo Stanton



            Little is known of the all black settlements and towns in the US or how they developed. When we think of leaving the confines of American racial oppression we usually think about the enslaved ancestors who escaped and went north and into Canada. But there were numerous settlements founded in North America by Blacks in the early 1800’s. “In a new book, The Bone and Sinew of the Land, historian Anna-Lisa Cox documents the homesteading activities of thousands of ‘forgotten black pioneers’ in the Northwest Territory—the area stretching from what’s now Ohio to Illinois and north into Wisconsin and Michigan. As part of her research, Cox attempted to locate as many settlements as she could that consisted of at least one African American–owned farm in the years between 1800 and 1860, using census records, deeds, and other documents. The map she assembled shows 338 in all, with the greatest number, as well as the largest and wealthiest, concentrated in Ohio and Indiana…

In other places, some of the settlers, especially newly free people who lacked resources, struggled with poorer land and more hostile surroundings. As Cox acknowledges, whatever ideals were written into the original laws of the territory, they were weakened as white settlers poured in and formed states that restricted the rights of black people and created added financial barriers, such as the requirement that they pay bonds of hundreds of dollars just to live there.” The Forgotten Black Pioneers Who Settled the Midwest Sarah Laskow https://www.atlasobscura.com/articles/black-pioneers-in-the-midwest Everywhere Blacks went they had to struggle even in the territories.

There was an early movement called the American Colonization Society (ACS) founded in 1816 by prominent whites like Robert Finley, Henry Clay and Daniel Webster who wanted to rid the US of free Blacks.  Abraham Lincoln was a member and supporter of the ACS. Ever since the Haitians overthrew European domination the US was petrified of their enslaved populations’ uprising. The insurrections and rumors of rebellions threatened the status quo and free Blacks posed an economic threat to many whites who were already competing with the institutions of indenture and slavery. Enslaved Africans were more valuable because they possessed skills and knowledge that many of the white immigrants didn’t, but I digress.

 The ACS was instrumental in the establishment of Liberia as an American colony in Africa in 1821. The ACS purchased land and helped free Blacks immigrate to Africa and supported the colony until it gained its freedom in 1847 (at the behest of the ACS). The ACS finally disbanded in 1964.

Following the War Between the States (a war that was about the institution of slavery and its economic bedrock of the nation but was not fought originally as a campaign by the North to free enslaved people); many Blacks began to think of having land, farms and businesses of their own. The Reconstruction Period helped in that regard, but Reconstruction only lasted a few years ending in 1877. Following the 1876 compromise the Southern plutocracy reestablished white dominance and Black disenfranchisement via political treachery, violence, threats and intimidation.

Amidst that tension many Black leaders sought redress and escape from the virulent oppression by venturing into American territories like Oklahoma and Midwestern and western states like Kansas and Texas. Blacks also established all Black towns in Tuskegee, Macon County, Alabama, Grambling, Lincoln Parish, Louisiana Hobson City, Calhoun County, Alabama Eatonville, Orange County, Florida, Mound Bayou and Bolivar County, Mississippi.

One of the more famous relocation movements was called the “Exodusters” who followed the visionary Benjamin “Pap” Singleton. Singleton was born into slavery in 1806 but escaped and went north to Detroit. Accounts say he operated a boarding house for other escaped enslaved people. When the War Between the States ended Singleton returned to Tennessee.

When the two political parties sold Blacks out by removing the federal troops, Singleton came up with the idea to relocate to Kansas which had a history of anti-slavery. He crisscrossed the South promoting his idea. “Between 1877 and 1879 nearly 300 African Americans followed him to Kansas. Some lived in Singleton's Colony’ in Cherokee County.  Others settled in Wyandotte, in Topeka's Tennessee Town, and in Dunlap Colony near present Emporia. Singleton advocated the organized colonization of blacks in communities in Kansas and testified about the ‘Exodusters’ before a committee of the U.S. Congress in 1880. A second wave of nearly 20,000 African Americans came to Kansas in 1879 and 1880. Unlike the first groups of immigrants that had resources and arrived in smaller organized groups, these ‘Exodusters’ had no money and they arrived daily by the hundreds. The communities in which they tried to settle were already struggling economically and were not prepared for such a spike in population. The communities appealed to the state government for assistance, resulting in the creation of the Kansas Freedmen’s Relief Association in 1879. The mission of the KFRA was to collect and distribute resources for struggling African Americans in Kansas. Though many African Americans came unprepared, most who remained were able to improve the quality of their lives and made important contributions to the state and the communities in which they lived.” https://www.kshs.org/kansapedia/benjamin-pap-singleton/12205

            Black self determination is not new. Our ancestors demonstrated it countless times in the past so can we now. Pap Singelton and the earlier Blacks who settled in the Northwest Territories are not well known. We do them honor and justice by telling their stories and adding them to the great legacy of Black accomplishment.




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